I'm late to the party with this, I know. I didn't bother getting the last gen version - there is a last gen version, yeah? - because I didn't have the hard drive space on my older consoles and I didn't get the PC version because I couldn't be arsed fucking around with uPlay. And the PC version of Trials Evolution was a shitport, so I didn't trust Ubi/RedLynx to do any better with this.
Late to the party and now I'm here I find that it's a fairly shitty party, full of irritating frat boys who are all laughing at each other's antics while everybody else looks on, bemused.
I really like Trials HD and Evolution. The handling is brilliant - the really simple control scheme and the absolute precision it provides reminds me of Virtua Fighter, in that everybody gets a level playing field thanks to having so little to have to remember, while still allowing for endless improvement on the part of each player. HD nailed it right out of the gates and Evolution built on that with a smoother user experience and greater polish.
I guess the problem Fusion faced was, where do you take that concept next? When you've already perfected your game, how do you design a sequel. More pointedly, how do you design a sequel that fits with your publisher's expectations of bigger and better? It's the Arkham City problem - I remember reading an interview with one of the senior guys at Rocksteady before City hit release, the interviewer asking if City's expanded size over Asylum meant that they were going to have to keep building bigger and bigger with each new sequel and he said nah, we can go back to a smaller, Asylum-sized game at any point, the audience will be with us if the game's good. And I thought, man, that's so much bullshit and you know it. WB will absolutely demand that you make the next game cover even more real estate and have even more baddies in it and most of the audience will see any attempt to scale back as being you ripping them off. You've led yourself down a path of no return here.
I presume that the RedLynx guys faced the same problem and saw the solution as being, well, we've done realism, then we mixed things up with some more fantastical, but still real-world levels, so now we'll do a big fantasy SF thing. And that's where the problems start.
The levels here are fucking irritating. Lots of them feature platforms that appear from out of the blue, right in front of you with no warning. This means that you're almost guaranteed to screw them up first time around, unless you're dead lucky. They're troll levels - not quite I Wanna Be the Guy, but not a million miles away from that kind of design sensibility, either. There are also levels where you go through portals and end up in totally different envorinments, which make the problem even worse and also suffer from the kind of awful Unreal Engine texture pop-in that I've not seen since the first Gears of War.
This stuff is here because they've tried to make the game have this comedy SF edge to it. It also leads to other issues. In some levels, foreground objects obscure the platforms and manage to lead you into believing that they actually *are* the platforms. Others have the same fault as Sonic Generations, foregrounds and backgrounds being difficult to distinguish from each other. Visual noise. In a game like this, where absolute precision and concentration are required, that's particularly problematic.
I also find these levels seriously uneven. The difficulty curve is all over the place and none of them have the feel of flow that HD and Evolution's were full of.
This all comes to a head in the DLC, specifically the Hyper Max Bullshit DLC, or whatever it's called - the one where you control a cat riding a unicorn. Yeah, that's the level of humour we're going with here - whereas the humour in the previous games came from the physics engine and the difficulty of some of the challenges that were thrown at you, here we've got an attempt to mash a few ancient internet memes together instead. The precise controls of the rest of the game are thrown out of the window and now we've got some awful floaty terribleness with an avatar that's stupidly difficult to work out the positioning of due to its messy, indistinct design. You spend most of the time feeling like you're floating above the ground rather than connected to it. It looks like RedLynx knew this, because to make up for it the levels are some of the easiest in the game. They're also the absolute worst victims of the aforementioned texture pop-in - one in particular spends most of its time changing the background scenery and failing to keep up with itself. If I'd paid for this shit separately I'd be massively pissed off.
To me, this DLC acts as the perfect example of what's wrong with this game in general - it takes the bad things from the main game and focuses on them, highlighting the basic flaws even more than they would be otherwise.
Then you watch videos of that Blood Dragon tie-in release and it becomes apparent that RedLynx are set on this course and that this series probably won't claw itself back to the near-perfection of the previous games any time soon.
A crying shame, because the handling on the game proper remains excellent. It's just that everything surrounding it ranges from poor to fuck-awful.